Clemengold Wolkberg Trail Run 2016 impresses (again)

The many faces of the 2016 Wolkberg Trail Run.

Clemengold Wolkberg Trail Run 2016 start

 

Scottish author, church minister, professor, and radio and television presenter William Barclay famously said: “Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory.”

These words resonate true for the hardy souls who participated in the 2016 Clemengold Wolkberg Trail Run, which proved itself worthy of its Skyrunning® status for a second year.

In an event as testing as this two-day stage race, there is a point where each athlete has to face adversity and turn it into glory. For some that translates into overcoming the odds for a podium or top 20 finish, while others may consider crossing the finish line a victory in itself. This is the nature of Skyrunning® and is what bonds athletes from different walks of life.

The mountains are calling

The 198 athletes that lined up at the start of the race at Stanford Lake College were in high spirits, despite what lay ahead. Collectively, their single-biggest obstacle was plainly one and the same thing: the highest summit in Limpopo province, Iron Crown.

Standing at 2,126m above sea-level, this local giant gave runners an idea of things to come but, as things got off to a chilly start, spirits remained high.

 

 

“The mountains are calling and we must go” @wolkbergtrail tweeted to runners, while KZN Trail Running’s Andrew Booth did not hesitate to remind athletes what was in store:

 

 

The first leg of the race, a tough 35km route, kicked off in Georges Valley, taking runners through the scenic Iron Crown grasslands en-route to the Iron Crown peak before winding back down to the picturesque Haenertsburg Village.

Day two featured 25km of indigenous forest, plantation roads, and grassland singletrack. Starting at the Stanford Lake College Outdoor Centre, runners were lead towards the popular Wegraakbosch Organic Cheese Farm, winding across three climbs before circling back and finishing at Stanford Lake College. This event was open to series participants as well as casual runners who wanted to experience running the Wolkberg.

 

wolkberg stanford lake school aerial vista from facebook 2016

Not a bad location for a school! Stanford Lake College has no shortage of healthy environs for developing quality young adults.

 

Competition was stiff for those looking for top placings. The overall win was clinched by Edwin Sesipi who despite getting lost on day one and losing a few minutes, finished in 5:15:13, ahead of Beniamino Pellegrini (5:27:25), and Herman Mulder (5:30:10).

In the women’s category, it was British athlete Holly Page who set a new course record, (and a sixth place overall), in 5:38:36. She delivered a strong performance throughout the race, cresting Iron Crown with the leading men on Day one, and finishing well ahead of perennial second-place finisher Marcelle Coetzee (6:13:46) and Naomi Brand (6:19:49) in third.

Full Wolkberg Trail Run 2016 results here.

edwin sesipi wolkberg 2016

In it to win it

Bagging the winning title was a feat that Edwin Sepisi (above) had set his sights on right from the start. The elite athlete already boasts numerous winning titles, including top three finishes in AfricanX 2015, the Rabbit Trail Series, Buster Bunny, and the Spur Gauteng Winter Trail Series, among others.

Hailing from Johannesburg, Edwin began his running career competing in cross country and track and field, before graduating to trail running. In an interview with inthelongrun, he speaks about growing up playing soccer.

“I was very good with scores, though I had a problem of sometimes running past the ball. That is when my friend said I should try athletics.”

Edwin ran his first trail run in 2014, when he competed in and won the 12km route of the New Balance Trail Run at Buffelspoort Dam. Speaking to stillwatersports.com after the event, he said how much he enjoyed trail running.

“I come from a track and field background. After today’s race I can say that I really enjoy trail running… This is my first event of 2014 and I am very happy with the win. I’ll definitely be back next year.”

Since that day Edwin has become a regular participant in trail running and is often seen at the front of the pack.

 

water table oranges Clemengold Wolkberg Trail Run 2016

Whether at the front or the back of the field, the food tables are a welcome top-up of nutrition, especially the wholesome Clemengolds.

Exploring African terrain

For Holly Page, winning Wolkberg was a different story. Although a strong all-around athlete, her predominant focus has been cycling. However, she recently began to re-discover her love for running, her passion once again fully ignited while leading the Yorkshire team to silver medals at the Inter-Counties Fell Championships at Llanberis, in Snowdonia, Wales, earlier this year.

 

Holly Page winner women's race wolkberg 2016

 

Needless to say, when Holly found herself travelling to South Africa for a three-month work stint, she grabbed the opportunity to enter some local races and do some exploring, with Wolkberg on the top of her list. Writing about her initial experience of the area in her blog, Holly recounts the trip fondly.

“I’m in the company of 12 members of the Mountain Club of South Africa which is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year,” she writes. “I’d half anticipated a group of grumpy old men, but I’m delighted to be spending four days with some of the friendliest, funniest, most welcoming people imaginable.”

Holly further explains how a hut lost in the mountains was their base for hiking, kloofing, caving, climbing, and swimming.

“We all sleep on the floor, cook on camping stoves or grill meat on the braai, wash in the breathtakingly cold river and sit by the fire when the sunset brings the night chill, singing to the accompaniment of three incredibly talented guitarists.”

 

 

Holly’s return to Wolkberg a few weeks later, was under more serious terms. However, the hybrid athlete was determined to enjoy herself while competing in the Wolkberg Trail Run and when she crossed the finish line as the leading lady, she was elated.

 

In this together

While Wolkberg saw a number of elite athletes competing for top positions and delivering a nail-biting finish, it must be noted that this event stands for so much more than just the winning. Completing a race of this magnitude is an admirable accomplishment and anyone who participated in the race can bear testament to that.

What stands out at an event such as Wolkberg is the great human spirit shown by the runners. Friendships are forged, bonds strengthened, experiences shared and there is always plenty of support and encouragement to go around. For mom and daughter duo, Moerieda and Sabrina Mackay, crossing the finish line together was a special moment shared.

Moerieda was ecstatic to take part in her first SkyMarathon. As a woman with ambition, her idea of fun is to push the limit. The International Skyrunning Federation defines a SkyMarathon as a race comprising a minimum of 2,000m total elevation gain and ranging between 30km to 42km in distance. Little that Wolkberg was on Moerieda’s list of To Dos.

She crossed the finish line, daughter in tow, exhausted but, having documented every moment on social media as the proud mom she was.

 


Moerida got hooked ultra running at the age of 40. Her story is one of inspiration. Initially overweight, she lost 22kg in 2010 by training on the elliptical trainer at the gym and watching her diet. The following year she entered and completed the Two Oceans half marathon, an event that proved to be life changing. From there, Moerida actively sought out new ways to challenge herself and push the boundaries while documenting it all on her blog, mymillionmiles.com/home.

Writing about her journey, Moerida explains how she did not come from a sporting world.

“I have no sporting background and with zero athletic ability, running is by far the most challenging thing I’ve taken on but it has put me on a path of self-discovery and serious transformation both physically, mentally and spiritually… and I love it!”

Moerida wrote how she dreamed of performing crazy tasks that would make her happy.

“I dream of becoming a multi-sport athlete in the not-so-far future. Yes, an athlete! I want to travel the globe with my family and drive, bike, run, walk, swim and fly in all sorts of exotic and interesting places.”

Needless to say, when entries opened for Wolkberg, she jumped at the opportunity to tackle the Series and tick another activity off her bucket list.

 

elated couple Clemengold Wolkberg Trail Run 2016

Friends ’til the end

A perfect example of trail running’s camaraderie, and one of the defining moment of this year’s race, was when Marcelle Coetzee crossed the finish line holding hands with a fellow 25km runner on day two.

 

 

Marcelle pushed hard on the day and came home as the second lady on the second leg of the race. However, it was how she crossed the finish line that will forever be remembered. Shortly after her finish, other athletes began to filter through, all displaying the same keen good nature, attracting the attention of spectators.

 

 

First-timer

Wolkberg also proved to be a first Skymarathon® for Andrew Booth, a member of the trail running events company, KwaZulul-Natal Trail Running (KZNTR). He, along with his wife Lauren, have been instrumental in developing trail running in KwaZulul-Natal. Through organising various trail running events in and around the province, the duo have made the sport accessible to all. As seasoned trail runners, it was inevitable that Andrew would eventually tackle the 35km Skymarathon®.

Posting a selfie with Andrew, Lauren was excited to share the news on Twitter:

 

 

Andrew managed to finish strong, and was on a runner’s high when he shared his experiences on social media.

 

Next year we’ll do it again

As day two of the Wolkberg Trail Run came to a close, dozens of athletes gingerly hobbled to their cars on broken legs, reluctant to return to the real world and their respective homes. The blood, sweat and tears were undoubtedly worth it and, despite feeling bent and broken, participants were exultant as they packed up to leave.

Many of this year’s participants will undoubtedly return to tackle Wolkberg Trail Run once again in 2017. However, for now, it is time to rest and recover.

 

 

While Lauren (Booth) chorused in, saying: “I had a tough day out & asked myself lots of questions yesterday. Ultimately, was it worth it? Absolutely.”

“Thank you to our sponsors Clemengold, Vivobarefoot, UltrAspire, Tailwind, and Ultrarunner, the event’s social media partner. Congrats to race director Steve Willson and his team for hosting an exceptional event,” said Stanford Lake College head Craig Carolan.

 

 

Full Wolkberg Trail Run 2016 results here.

Follow Wolkberg Trail Run on Facebook

Follow Wolkberg Trail Run on Twitter

 

 

Next up in the Skyrunning series is the 55km Marloth Mountain Challenge on 24 September in the Western Cape, followed by the 37km Uitsoek SkyMarathon on 22 October in Mpumalanga and finally, the Lesotho Ultra Trail 50km on 26 November in Lesotho.

For those who did not make it to this year’s event, here is a little round up of the weekend.

 

 

 

Full Wolkberg Trail Run 2016 results here.

 

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